WACA groundsman prays for pace

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICEPerth

ON November 12 last year, the day before the second test between Australia and New Zealand in Perth, WACA groundsman Matt Page talked a good game.

“There will be some pace and bounce for the quick guys, absolutely,” he said. “We’ll see a result.”

Five days, 1672 runs and 28 wickets later none of the above was true.

David Warner scored one double century, Ross Taylor another, Australia were able to declare in both their innings, and Mitchell Johnson declared his career over – perhaps because he had struggled through 28 overs for the meagre reward of 1/157 in the first innings.

This being Australia there was no shortage of effing and blinding burning Page’s ears. 

But he is still in his job, and he is still talking a good game.

“There’s pressure with every wicket you produce at the WACA,” he said on Wednesday, the day before the first test between Australia and South Africa.

He wanted “pace and bounce” and talked about “consistently getting it back to the way it was in the 70s”, when the WACA gave you wings. Provided you were a fast bowler.

“That’s what we try and do with all our wickets. Sometimes we get there, sometimes we don’t.

“But I’m pretty confident we’ll have a wicket that will have a bit in it for both batsmen and bowlers.

“Our biggest issue is our consistency. They’re not consistently quick, and that’s what we’re working towards.”

For that to happen Page needs help from the weather. Specifically he needs temperatures high enough to toast a Vegemite sandwich on the pavement.

Bad luck, what the mercury staying put in the 20s this week.

“It’s been quite cold, hasn’t it? I’m still in my track pants.

“It’s not been great but we’ve tinkered with our prep to try get a harder surface than we would normally see at this time of year and just try help (the ball) go through a bit quicker.”

At least, he said, there was no tinkering from someone else often seen in tracksuits pants.

“Everyone wants to come here or turn on the TV and see that ball flying through to the wicketkeeper, and that’s what we try and prepare,” Page said.

“So if (Australian coach Darren Lehmann) came to me and asked for a spinner’s wicket I’d be quite concerned.”

Damn straight. Even last year’s sleepy surface bequeathed only six of those 28 wickets to spinners.

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